If you’ve lived in Israel for some time now or follow the videos coming out of Israel’s military that circulate online, you’d be no stranger to those bright lights that illuminate the sky like Chinese sky lanterns. Yup, they’re pretty to look at, alright, but those aren’t lanterns. They’re actually Israel’s Iron Dome.

No, they’re not some Israeli fireworks. It’s one of Israel’s reliable air defense systems that can be comparable to the United States’ Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target (PATRIOT) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems. Comparable and similar, but altogether serve different purposes.

With Israel always in a constant threat of missile and rocket attacks from the Palestinian Hamas and possibly even the Houthi rebels from Yemen, especially with their recent attacks on the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the system has served its country well, boasting about an 85% to 90% success rate in defending against incoming missiles.

That being said, let’s get into why the Israeli Iron Dome is one system to watch!

What Exactly Is It?

If you want to be technical about it, and I’m sure a lot of you do, the Iron Dome is a counter rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) or counter-RAM system that detects and destroys incoming rockets and the like before actually hitting their targets. Also known as the Kippat Barzel in its native country, it was specifically designed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells with a range of about 44 miles.

An Iron Dome missile defense system fires an interceptor at a target during an exercise in early 2021 (Israel Defense Ministry via The Times of Israel). Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-military-tests-iron-dome-in-guam-with-eyes-on-threats-from-china-report/
An Iron Dome missile defense system fires an interceptor at a target during an exercise in early 2021 (Israel Defense Ministry via The Times of Israel)

Initial conceptualization of the system came about when Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia political and militant group, fired hundreds of unaimed rockets into Israel in the 1990s. Being one of the most powerful non-state actors in the world, Hezbollah does have robust military capabilities, as shown when it fired 4,000 Soviet Katyusha rockets into Haifa and surrounding cities in 2006. With the barrage killing several Israeli civilians and thousands of evacuations, they knew they had to develop a system to protect them against these short-range rockets.

As if that wasn’t enough, Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic militant group and its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, fired 4,000 rockets and 4,000 mortars into Israel from 2000 to 2008. This time the rockets were the simple Qassam rocket launched by BM-21 Grad launchers—basically, they had just launched these rockets to instill chaos as the Qassam rocket cannot be fired to a specific target, making them highly inaccurate and prone to malfunction. It’s the equivalent of throwing a dart with a blindfold. Only this time, it can actually hundreds of not thousands of people if it hit the right target like a packed soccer stadium or an outdoor concert.